Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Son Tay Raid Anniversary

We were remiss in not recognizing the anniversary of the famous Son Tay Raid. The night between the 20-21 November is the forty-first anniversary of the Son Tay Raid, which of course occurred in 1970. Thanks to Colonel Oden for reminding us.

For those that don’t recall the “Raid”, it was a US attempt in 1970 to rescue American POWs from a North Vietnamese Prison Camp just west of Hanoi. It was a phenomenal operation, prepped for in great secrecy and executed with surgical precision. Unfortunately, the POWs had been moved and the “cupboard was bare”—so the raiders took down an enemy training facility instead--shwacking a boatload of “foreign military advisors” and NVA in the process. Because of the raid, the North Vietnamese consolidated all the POWs (who, up until the raid were scattered all over North and South Vietnam , Laos and Cambodia ) which actually improved the POWs lives.

Although the Raid force was commanded by Brigadier General Leroy Mannor, USAF, the Commander on the ground was COL Arthur “Bull” Simons, with LTC Elliot “Bud” Sydnor and CPT Dick Meadows as deputies—all seasoned SF officers with distinguished combat records. But here’s some tid-bits they neglect to mention. Photo of Raiders in infil aircraft at left.

No other special operation has had the effect that this one has had on American Special Operations. The plan was the “blueprint” for DESERT ONE (the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran on 24 April 1980) and the organizational concept was morphed into what is now SFOD-DELTA.

This was a Special Forces mission; but every raider was also a dual qualified RANGER—in fact many had been or would become RANGER Instructors (RIs)—I personally had three, Meadows being the highlight. This was the first truly JOINT Operation: Army SF, AF Spec Opns, and (a full blown Navy & Marine air strike as a diversion over Hanoi ). In fact, the only guy rescued was one of the pilots from the diversion who got shot down and the raiders picked him up on EXFIL.

This was the first military use of “Red Dot”sights and the common weapon was the CAR-15.

Three of the DSC Awardees I was privileged to serve with. MAJ Meadows was one of my RIs in FLA RANGER Camp. COL Sydnor was my tactical officer at the Infantry Officer Advanced Course; he gave a brief on the raid on 15 July 1980 — I missed it because my oldest son, Gary, was being born during the brief. SSG Tom Powell was later my company commander in C/3/5SFGA (when I commanded ODA 595).

SFC John Jakovenko, SFC Jack G. Joplin, SSG Kenneth E. McMullen, SSG David Nickerson & SSG Paul F. Poole were all SGMs in 5th SFGA while I was there (1980-5). Joplin being my BN CSM in 3/5 SFGA. MSG Calen C. Kittleson was an ALAMO Scout and a veteran of the CABANATUAN Raid of WWII. I met him a couple of times and never knew
about either experience until I saw him on the History channel talking about both.

MSG Joseph W. Lupyak is retired from the Army but is still a DA Civilian helping in the SF “Q” Course and a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment. Picture of Raiders being awarded medals at right.

Final bit of trivia. The original Son Tay Raider‘s Patch is not the one (commonly displayed in some publications). The Original had white mushrooms in the dark with the motto of “KITDFOHS”: Kept in the Dark-Fed Only Horse Shit! (see patch at top of post).

De Oppresso Liber!

Ray L. Oden
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Special Forces, Retired


  1. Tom Powell was not Ranger qualified at the time of the raid. I went through Ranger Class 8-75 with him in April-May 1975.

  2. Tom Powell was not Ranger qualified at the time of the raid. I went through Ranger Class 8-75 with him in April-May 1975.

  3. I was on flight deck of uss oriskany in north vietnam launching aircraft for this event we only armed with flairs no armed weapons hitting hanoi this was a failed event what a farst enjoy your medals


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